Harbottle & Lewis has retained none of its three qualifying trainees this autumn, blaming Covid.
The firm came clean about its 0% retention rate via a note smuggled into the bottom of its profile in Chambers Student. Although the unfortunate phrasing - "due to Covid-19 the firm did not retain any of its three autumn qualifiers" - suggested the trainees caught Covid and died, "they did not", clarified a source. All managed to secure jobs elsewhere.
The firm was less forthcoming with the trainees themselves, said a source, who were given "no specifics" and told only that there would be no qualification offers due to "financial reasons".
In a humiliating blow, management did not tell any other employees about its 0% retention policy, said a source, leaving the trainees to "self-announce" that they were off. "Even on their last day, senior partners and management did not acknowledge the trainees who were being shown the door."
Harbottle & Lewis was criticised by another source for furloughing its trainees, with the result that they were "effectively robbed of almost an entire seat of their training contracts".
Some departments of the firm, though not all, also had their employment contracts "unilaterally varied", said a source, and had to "swallow a pay cut" while still being expected to "provide normal service levels 5 days a week".
Harbottle & Lewis is not the only firm to take such measures during the pandemic and, said a source, at least it was paying back the cash it claimed, "now that the government has decided it will publish a list of companies that took furlough money".
The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
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